Sunscreen Your Books Before Hitting the Beach

As you prepare to pack your summer beach read, let’s play a novel game I call Sunkiss, Sunscreen or Sunburn.  

I played this Mommipop original game this past week while perusing the library shelves of our beach rental, judging each hand-picked book by its first line. Because a book’s first line — like sunkissed skin, or the contrary, a painful sunburn  — can leave a lasting impression.

Here’s how it works: I give you the first line of a selected novel and you simply decide if it grabs you by giving it one of three designations:

  1. SUNKISS – You’re anxious to read more. Put it atop the Sunkiss pile.
  2. SUNSCREEN – You feel unmoved. File it in the Sunscreen section.
  3. SUNBURN – You loathe its every word. Ban it to the Sunburn-in-hell shelf.

At the end of this game, you get the added fun of finding out the author and title of the Sunkissed book you would have picked to read — and the Sunburned books you’ll never again see!

PERSUASION ALERT: In the answers, I include my own feelings on the first-liners, too!

Ready to play Sunkiss, Sunscreen or Sunburn?

Read the first line of each selected novel listed below. Make your own selections — SUNKISS, SUNSCREEN or SUNBURN — or make your own predictions to determine which novels I called must-reads.

A. Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?

B.  She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks in the distance.

C. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

D. No one ever gave me directions like this on a golf course before: “Aim at either Microsoft or IBM.”

E. Prologue: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own. Chapter 1: High atop the steps of the Great Pyramid of Giza, a young woman laughed and called down to him. “Robert, hurry up! I knew I should have married a younger man!”

F. In 1958, Beaufort, North Carolina, which located on the coast near Morehead City, was a place like many other small southern towns.

G. The light hadn’t even officially turned green at the intersection of 17th and Broadway before an army of overconfident yellow cabs roared past the tiny deathtrap I was attempting to navigate around the city streets.

H. I lay without moving in the low, narrow crawl space under the front porch of our home near West Point.

I. “Tom!” No answer. “TOM!” No answer. “What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!” No answer.

J. He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features; a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine—he could see out, but you couldn’t see in.


A. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks SUNKISS. Not a nail biter, but I love a thought-provoking first line. The intrigue made me want to turn the pages and look ahead!

B. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje … I’m shocked this novel was adapted into a hit film, judging by the dull opening. I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t. SUNSCREEN.

C. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald …  a classic and a high school favorite of mine that I would love to read again (but not before I’ve read everything else I want to read). SUNKISS.

D. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman … I’ve actually already read this one. I’m not surprised because it has a great opener. I guess I’ve been SUNKISSED!

E. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown Brilliant writing. I must read this one! Not only does the prologue grab me, the first chapter does, too! I began to wonder why I hadn’t experienced this SUNKISS yet.

F.  A Walk to Remember … This lesser known novel by Nicholas Sparks is a book to forget. SUNBURN.

G. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger … If I didn’t know the title, I don’t think I would have read a sentence further, even though the film is one of my all-time favorites. SUNSCREEN.

H. Hide & Seek by James Patterson … I thought James Patterson would grab me from the get-go, but this just doesn’t do it. SUNSCREEN, please!

I. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain … For some reason, I just can’t wait to find out what happened to Tom with this simple, yet intriguing opening. No wonder it’s a classic. SUNKISS.

J. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt … This one almost lost me until the striking limousine description. By the end of the sentence, I not only wanted to read it, I wanted to ditch the beach and travel to the novel’s setting: Savannah, Georgia. SUNKISS me in Savannah!

If you played the game and read this far, you get the prize of finding out which book I ended up reading. I hope I don’t disappoint, but it was none of the above.

Instead, I devoured the book I brought, which inspired this game: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett. My husband gifted me the novel “about old books, young love and Jane Austen” in the hopes of inspiring me to continue my own writing. It worked.

It only took the first line of First Impressions to hook me: “Fond as she was of solitary walks, Jane had been wandering rather longer than she had intended, her mind occupied not so much with the story she had lately been reading as with one she hoped soon to be writing.” I am SUNKISSED.

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